Five Action Movies That Started Off As Foreign Films

I love the movies.  I grew up thinking that Hollywood made some of the best films ever made.  Just think how upset I was when I found out that they were remakes of foreign films.  Sometimes BETTER foreign films than the movies we were watching!  These films were the cornerstone of my childhood, but it turns out they were just a remake.  Now that I’ve grown up, I’ve had the opportunity to watch some of them in their original filming.  You should check them out.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Magnificent Seven (Originally A Japanese Film)
This is in my top five films growing up.  As I write this, it is on television.  The 1960 movie, starring Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, and James Colburn was about seven gunfighters who protect a Mexican town from bandits.  However, it was originally a Japanese film by famed director, Akira Kurosawa, made in 1954).  It was named, The Seven Samurai (the American version wasn’t very original on names) and is considered one of the greatest and influential movies ever made.  Instead of gunfighters at the end of the 1800s protecting a village from bandits, the original movie portrays seven samurai (surprised?) during the 1500s who protect a village from bandits.

Point of No Return (Originally A French Film)
This 1993 film, starring Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Anne Bancroft, and Dermot Mulroney is about a drug addicted girl who is recruited by the CIA and turned into an assassin to work for the government.  She tries her best to leave the agency, but they keep pulling her back into the fold.  The movie, which was a really good film, was originally made by French director Luc Besson’s 1990 film, Nikita.  The only real difference between the two films – other than the language – was that in Nikita, she works for the French government.  I guess this makes it a little difficult for Americans to comprehend since a French action hero is a little hard to swallow.  In any case, the film was such a success in the United States with Fonda as the lead, that the USA Network turned it into a weekly television series called La Femme Nikita (1997-2001).  The television series, made in Canada, was a huge success and lasted for 96 episodes.

The Departed (Originally A Chinese Film)
I was seriously shocked when I found out that Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Boston crime movie, which won tons of accolades and awards, was a remake.  The movie, filmed in Boston is loaded with stars: Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg.  It won four Oscars and many film critics named it at the top of their film lists for 2006.  However, the film was originally made in Hong Kong in 2002 and was called Infernal Affairs.  The Chinese title was Mou Gaan Dou, which means “the non-stop path”, and is a reference to the lowest level of hell in Buddhism.  The English name is a word play on Internal Affairs in our modern police structure and the word infernal, referencing Hell.  The Cantonese version of this film also contained an all-star cast (although, you’ve probably never heard of any of them) and was heralded as the “return of Hong Kong cinema”.  Miramax films in the United States bought the rights to the film in 2004 and it was released in limited production in the U.S.  The plot is relatively the same, except instead of the Boston Irish-mafia, the bad guys were the Chinese Triads.

Reservoir Dogs (Originally A Chinese and American Film)
I did a double take when I heard this 1997 film was a remake.  When I first saw this movie, I walked away feeling “dirty” that I saw it.  Quentin Tarantino is extremely messed up.  However, if you knew that he “borrowed” this movie from several other films, you might be surprised by his “genius”.  He’s sworn that he didn’t steal anything, but rather paid homage to several films in his movie.  The list is pretty extensive.

City of Fire (1987): Starring Chow Yun Fat and directed by Ringo Lam, this film was about an undercover cop who was feeling pressure from all sides and has to infiltrate a gang of killers and thieves who are about to do a diamond heist.  In the process of the film, he begins to bond with another member of the gang.  The diamond heist is a bust and towards the end of the film, there is a giant Mexican standoff which ends…well, you’ve seen the ending of Reservoir Dogs.  When asked about the similarities of the two films, Tarantino mentioned he couldn’t wait to see this one.

The Killing (1956): This American film, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick, is about a veteran criminal wanting to pull off one last heist.  He hires a group of other criminals, each with certain skills.  The heist is successful, but when it comes to divide the money, the robbers get into a shootout which leaves all of them dead, except one guy who leaves to exact revenge before dying, himself.  Tarantino admits to using some story elements from this film in his movie.

The Big Combo (1955): While the storyline of this movie, directed by Joseph A. Lewis is different from Reservoir Dogs, the scene where the cop is tortured is taken from this film.  The villain in this film is aptly named, Mr. Brown, such as the bad guys in the Tarantino film.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974): If you were thinking this was the movie with Denzel Washington and John Travolta, that was a remake of this film, too.  This movie included Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw (Quint from the movie Jaws), and Jerry Stiller.  With this cast, you’d think it was a comedy, not a film that Tarantino used as a basis for his film. However, the stars of the film had very interesting names: Mr. Blue, Green, Brown, and Grey.  They were hijackers on a subway train who end up killing each other.  That’s about where the similarities end in regards to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, but he admits to taking the idea for the colors from this film.

The Running Man (Originally A French-Serbian And A German Film)
I couldn’t believe this was originally a French film.  I had always heard that Stephen King had written this as a short story under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman in 1982.  This film was made in 1987 about a man (Arnold Schwartzenegger) who is wrongly accused and forced to participate in a television game show where killers hunt the participants.  If the participants win, they are let go, but no one has ever won.  However, the French came out with a film in 1983, entitled Le Prix du Danger (The Price of Danger).  I know what you are saying, “This has to be based on Stephen King’s story – it came out only a year after he wrote it.”  Well, yes it did, but they got the story from another author, Robert Sheckley, The Prize of Peril, which was written in 1958.  In this movie, however, the protagonist isn’t a criminal, but a father and husband down on his luck.  He joins a game show similar to the one in the Running Man movie.  A German television movie, by the name of Das Millionenspiel (1970), also based on the same Sheckley book.